Thursday, October 27, 2011

From the Reader Mail Bag: "How Does A Foster Family Afford to Keep A Spare Room?"

Jenna from New Jersey writes:

My husband and I were licensed as foster parents 4 months ago. We still haven't had any calls about placements, other than one for a teenager which is outside our age range (we asked for ages 0-4 and are open to medical needs). Everyone told us that the Department of Youth and Family Services was desperate for foster families, so we assumed our phone would be ringing off the hook. Foster parent friends in other states and even other parts of our state have said they were getting calls since before the ink on their foster license was dry. We're disappointed and a little concerned.
Here's the problem: We moved from our small 2 bedroom apartment to a much nicer 3 bedroom apartment right before we got licensed. We did this so we'd have plenty of room for our foster child and eventually maybe a second foster child as well. Now I'm wondering if we made the wrong choice and should  have stayed put. We are financially able to support ourselves but were counting on having the DYFS subsidy to help pay for the cost of having additional rooms to house foster children in, since in our area housing is so expensive. How do other foster families afford to have rooms open and unoccupied for long periods of time? Do you have any ideas of how we can afford to foster despite it potentially taking months or years to have our first placement?

Any ideas or feedback for Jenna, readers? Leave your suggestions in the comments!

Don't forget to send in your Reader Mail Bag questions! Anything relating to raising a foster, adoptive, pre-adoptive, special needs or multiracial family on a budget is game. We also welcome questions about living green, finding deals, couponing, planning or saving for becoming foster or adoptive parents, etc. Don't forget to specify if you'd like us to post your question anonymously or using your first name.


  1. As an ex-DCFS caseworker, one thing I noticed was that the person in charge of "placing" children would get used to certain families, agencies, etc. If you licensed through an agency, don't be afraid to call them and let them know you are ready for kids! Also, you can absolutely call DCFS directly and ask to speak with who is in charge of placing new wards, (especially if you are licensed through them) and say "Hey, we're here :)" Don't be afraid to be vocal... Our placement caseworker was really nice and great at what she did, but like with all things she would get complacent and habit had her going back to the same "good" families that she knew she could trust :) Hope that helps!

  2. In terms of paying for the extra room, me and another single waiting parent who are overhoused (each of us in two bedrooms) came up with a lot of schemes to pay the extra rent: becoming regular respite care providers, using the extra room as an office for short-term contracts. At one point, she was going to move into my extra room so we could both save money, with the understanding that she would move out again when I got a placement. Since we are in the adoption program rather than fostering, it would have been reasonable to expect a couple weeks to get our living arrangements sorted out. I understand in the foster program, though, there isn't a lot of notice, so the flexible roommate might not be an option for the second room, but could be an option for the third room.